How can we help gain more business in receivables finance?

Education is the first and, in my opinion, one of the most important challenges that requires our immediate attention and cooperation. There is an enormous lack of awareness and understanding (even confusion) around receivable finance, factoring and supply chain financing in emerging markets. The lack of awareness/ knowledge and education availability is a serious issue for financial institutions, as they need access to these products – this even applies for the development banks, although to a lesser degree.

The role of Fintechs in supplier finance

Some of the earliest notable movers in Fintech entered the supplier finance space. Fintechs digitised the enrolment of suppliers, making it easier and quicker, invited local and regional banks to participate in a market previously dominated by MNC banks and they expanded the marketable buyer base to non-rated corporates via securitisation models (albeit a model in its infancy). More recently, some have expanded their scope to include procure to pay solutions integrated with supply chain finance. These developments have been important for the SME segment, as more SMEs have more financiers ready to offer them finance.

Commenting on the use of supply chain finance

I have to say that the product, if managed it well, it is very profitable and has a low risk profile. Clients used to be solvents and you can control the risk closely. The product provides a capacity to dramatically manoeuvre very quickly,as new invoices can stop being accepted at any moment. The outstanding risk is for the finance that has already been advanced to the suppliers, but this will not increase. In fact, it will gradually decrease in the coming months when the invoice due dates arrive, eventually eliminating the risk.

All that glitters is not gold...

The Trump Administration has been in charge now for about 100 days and it appears that the initial SME “euphoria” has pretty much evaporated. Why do we sense this? We talk, communicate and interact with SME business owners, prospective and current clients and partners’ everyday of the week and there seems to be a growing unease with the way things are panning out under the new President. If history teaches us anything, it is that when SME owners get uncertain and nervous, plans to expand, add new employees and seek working capital to fund these efforts [including factoring] get put on hold. If this occurs again in 2017, plans for any reasonable growth in the factoring industry and bank lending in the United States will be very difficult if not impossible to accomplish.

Debating the problem with introducing Blockchain to receivables finance

The problem is more a political one, when you think about it, because the technology is quite advanced. Even with Blockchain, it’s not that you can just incorporate it yet. You have to get everybody on board with your platform. For example, create a small consortium Blockchain and use it as a recording tool of transactions and for transparency reasons. It’s also a recording tool for ratings, if you have a very weak or small supplier in the supply chain that doesn’t have a rating or is a start-up company but it’s an important service and you still want to include them, it’s hard to convince people to do business with them.

Will blockchain take away risk in factoring or is fraud still an issue in the industry?

Fraud is, unfortunately, an ongoing issue within the factoring industry. When it comes to Blockchain, well it’s difficult to judge as this technology is still under development – but yes, it could be a promising opportunity for fraud prevention. However, I’m not yet sure how to handle and receive fraud protection in a complete technological way. The range of fraud seems endless when considering seller and buyers collaborating to raise funds, for instance. When it comes to Fintech, I haven’t seen a complete solution yet.

To what extent is supply chain finance evolving to integrate the commercial, technical and legal aspects of supply chains to achieve an efficient end-to-end process?

Commercial, technical and legal integration are intrinsic parts to every supply chain. There is no successful supply chain finance programme that doesn’t integrate these three. Just launching a programme that is distributing liquidity to your suppliers doesn’t mean it’s successful. A successful programme is one that helps the clients and suppliers to reduce the risk whilst accessing liquidity in a commercially and legally efficient solution. We do not think Supply Chain Finance is evolving on this respect, but it is maturing. The market is maturing.

Has the slow introduction of blockchain in receivables finance caused fraud to go away?

No, it hasn’t gone away, fraud is still there. The process and structure put in place to access liquidity requires certain information like an invoice, so there is the opportunity for somebody who is either a criminal fraudster or, sometimes, sadly, legitimate businesses who have come into difficult cash flow situations and then started to abuse the system by introducing false invoices. For instance: let’s say that the business from ‘buyer X’ is expected next month so it doesn’t take much to change the date on the invoice from the 1st of April to the 1st of March. Its advancing forward in time an invoice but it no longer matches reality and is a “timing” fraud. The business has not transacted so it’s fraudulent because you’re asking for money on the base of an invoice which does not exist because goods have not actually shipped. It’s commonly a first toe-dipping exercise into the world of fraud.